WHEN LACSON MET ABAD, ALCALA, NO FIREWORKS

There were no fireworks in the first Cabinet meeting between Supertyphoon “Yolanda” rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson, on one hand, and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, on the other, since the former senator released the so-called “Napolist,” or the list of officials involved in the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles. Abad and Alcala were included on the list, but both officials said they had a friendly chat with Lacson during the meeting and that they did not touch on the list of politicians tagged by Napoles. The Friday meeting lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Malacañang, with another meeting set before the end of this month.READ MORE...

ALSO: PNoy shields ‘listed’ allies; Keeps them in Cabinet till evidence show guilt

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III said members of his Cabinet who are being dragged into the pork barrel scandal are innocent until proven guilty, and will remain at their posts until there is sufficient evidence to charge them in court. “Here in our country, it is a basic right of all accused that they are innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until you prove yourself innocent,” the President said. “If all critics of our Cabinet secretaries demand that we replace our officials, and if we give in to them every time they criticize, then how can we have a Cabinet?” At least three Cabinet officials have been implicated in the pork barrel scam, allegedly organized by Janet Lim Napoles: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority director general Joel Villanueva, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday that Napoles has applied for immunity from suit in exchange for testifying for the state on the pork barrel scam and the Malampaya fund mess. De Lima said she was evaluating the request. Amid calls for the Cabinet officials to resign, Aquino said if there is evidence against them, the government will initiate the filing of cases. “This I can promise you: if there is sufficient evidence, we will bring them to court,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Alcala loses Agri control; PNoy hands 75% budget, 4 key units to Pangilinan

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has clipped Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s powers, with 75 percent of the department’s P68.59 billion budget now lodged with the Office of the President under former senator Francis Pangilinan, Palace sources said Sunday. With Alcala reduced to a mere titular head, lawmakers, farmers and critics have renewed calls for his resignation amid threats of reduced production as a result of the El Niño phenomenon.
Since his appointment by President Aquino in 2010, Alcala has been hounded by numerous issues, including rampant smuggling of agricultural products including rice, pork and poultry, his failure to deliver on the promise of rice self sufficiency, and allegations of his involvement in the pork barrel scam. Alcala’s remaining 25 percent of his powers includes control over agencies such as the National Agribusiness Corp. or Nabcor, which was abolished in March by the President after it was linked to the pork barrel scandal. Alcala also retains supervision over National Dairy Corp., a recipient of the bulk of the funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the legality of which has been challenged in court. “Out of delicadeza... Alcala should start packing up and resign his post. If he refuses to resign, then the President should sack him,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate. Zarate added that Alcala was now being slapped in the face for his incompetence. Four strategic agencies of the Department of Agriculture were transferred to the Office of the President. The rest of the 36 smaller agencies remain under Alcala’s control. READ MORE...

ALSO: A climate change resilient Philippines

BY Yolanda Kakabadse, WWF International President (photo). What is the true cost of climate change? Ask Filipinos. They know. They know because one storm claimed more than 6,000 lives and inflicted $14 billion in economic damage. They know because they have experienced loss – and loss is a powerful teacher. When it comes to climate change, the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country in the world, according to a study released by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works. It is a tropical archipelago besieged by no less than 20 storms a year. WWF was in Tacloban, the city that was hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan, two months before the storm hit. The city’s leaders predicted the coming of a mega-storm within a decade. They were right, only it came sooner than expected. Climate disasters are a reality that millions of Asians have had to face early. How much carbon Filipinos emit is beside the point: stronger and more frequent storms will assail their homes regardless. So how should they prepare for a climate-defined future? READ MORE...
 


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When Lacson met Abad, Alcala, no fireworks


Rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, MAY 19, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Gil C. Cabacungan - There were no fireworks in the first Cabinet meeting between Supertyphoon “Yolanda” rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson, on one hand, and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, on the other, since the former senator released the so-called “Napolist,” or the list of officials involved in the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Abad and Alcala were included on the list, but both officials said they had a friendly chat with Lacson during the meeting and that they did not touch on the list of politicians tagged by Napoles. The Friday meeting lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Malacañang, with another meeting set before the end of this month.

Pleasant exchange

In a text message, Abad said: “The meeting was convened by the support cluster on Yolanda rehabilitation, which I cochair with the National Economic and Development Authority. Yes, [Lacson and I] talked, but it was only about Yolanda-related matters. Nothing on the Napolist.”

In a phone interview, Alcala said he had a pleasant exchange with Lacson during the Cabinet meeting and that their conversation centered on the agriculture department’s deployment of aid and livelihood programs for Yolanda victims.

“We did not talk about the list. The President has already said his piece about it and told us to focus on our work and let the concerned agencies sort out [the list] first. There is a proper time to tackle this issue,” said Alcala.
Lacson did not reply to the Inquirer’s inquiry.

In a briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said that during the Cabinet meeting, the President had “directed the Cabinet to act with an increased sense of urgency in finalizing the post-Yolanda rehabilitation plan, especially in view of the expected onset of the rainy season in June.”

Goals met

Lacson reported that the government team had so far met its goals on resettlement, infrastructure, social services and livelihood in Tacloban City and Leyte, Western Samar and Cebu provinces.

Abad said P32.2 billion of the P65 billion available in the 2014 and 2013 budgets had been released to the areas, with another P80 billion in the pipeline from concessional loans and grants from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Based on the Post Disaster Needs Assessment, the Eastern Visayas region required P104.6 billion to get back on its feet.

Coloma said housing agencies had so far started construction on the first batch of 2,844 new permanent houses as of March this year, with the second batch of 5,760 units expected to be contracted by June. The government is targeting 214,367 new houses by 2016.

“The resettlement cluster will meet again within a week to thresh out a new policy using science-based, multihazard maps to determine safe, controlled and unsafe zones.

This will address the problems posed by the strict implementation of the no-build zone policy, especially in coastal and tourist-oriented areas,” Coloma said.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

PNoy shields ‘listed’ allies By Joyce Pangco Panares, Rey E. Requejo | May. 16, 2014 at 12:01am


Keeps them in Cabinet till evidence show guilt

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III said members of his Cabinet who are being dragged into the pork barrel scandal are innocent until proven guilty, and will remain at their posts until there is sufficient evidence to charge them in court.

“Here in our country, it is a basic right of all accused that they are innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until you prove yourself innocent,” the President said.

“If all critics of our Cabinet secretaries demand that we replace our officials, and if we give in to them every time they criticize, then how can we have a Cabinet?”

At least three Cabinet officials have been implicated in the pork barrel scam, allegedly organized by Janet Lim Napoles: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority director general Joel Villanueva, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday that Napoles has applied for immunity from suit in exchange for testifying for the state on the pork barrel scam and the Malampaya fund mess.

De Lima said she was evaluating the request.

Amid calls for the Cabinet officials to resign, Aquino said if there is evidence against them, the government will initiate the filing of cases.

“This I can promise you: if there is sufficient evidence, we will bring them to court,” he said.

He said it is the obligation of government to ensure that airtight cases are filed against those who misuse public funds.

“If we file weak cases based on assumptions and unfounded accusations, it is like guaranteeing that the cases will be dismissed. It is like giving the accused a perpetual get-out-of-jail card because we have the principle of double jeopardy, meaning we cannot file the same case again,” Aquino said.

The President cited the case of Villanueva, who was accused of channeling his pork barrel fund to a non-government organization of alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles when he was still a party-list representative of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac).

“This is not to pre-judge, but Secretary Villanueva showed to me the alleged request letter that he signed. What was printed in the letterhead was another party-list and not Cibac,” he said.

Aquino said the government cannot also be hasty in filing the cases against the 25 incumbent and former senators who were in the lists of Napoles and whistleblower Benhur Luy.

“Should we have filed the cases against the 25 and leave it up to Batman to ensure that the cases prosper? Or should we ensure that the cases we file hold them accountable for plundering public funds?” the President said.

He recalled that the first list he got contained the names of 14 senators, the list submitted by Napoles as well as the one with rehabilitation czar had 11 names each.

“There is only source, but the contents were different,” the President said.

Aquino was also lukewarm to calls for Napoles and Luy to be called to the Senate to testify again.

“Are they trying to help clarify the discussion or are you out to muddle this? Do they want me to lose time to file cases by making us explore all their accusations? We have to be careful with this,” the President said.

“And I just want to stress, my understanding is that the affidavit of Napoles is still unfinished and is a work in progress. I wonder what will be Chapter III or her third revision? Six months from now, will she recall the names of all those in her list?”

“Maybe they want us to get dizzy and confused, and we will not agree to that,” the President added.

De Lima said she received Napoles’ request for immunity along with her initial signed and notarized affidavit, which covers the three senators and five congressmen already charged in the first batch of plunder cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.

De Lima said she would assess Napoles’ qualifications as a state witness and submit a recommendation to the Ombudsman, which will have the final say.

De Lima noted that the Department of Justice’s witness protection program, which provides security to state witnesses, also has power to vet applicants.

However, De Lima said Napoles’ application for state witness status is not a priority of the Justice Department.

“That could only be secondary to the vetting or the evaluation of her allegations in her initial affidavit and then in the longer, complete affidavit that we’re waiting for. It’s only after vetting that we will able to know is she’s qualified (to become state witness) or not,” De Lima said.

The law says a state witness must not be the most guilty in the crime, and that her testimony be necessary in the successful prosecution of the case.

The Ombudsman has earlier approved the application for immunity from criminal suit of another accused in the pork barrel scam, socialite Ruby Tuazon, who has turned government witness.

The camp of pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy immediately opposed Napoles’ application for coverage under the witness protection program.

Luy’s lawyer Raji Mendoza pointed out that Napoles’ credibility has already been destroyed after she lied “many times” in her testimony before the Senate.

“We believe that she should not be granted immunity. Her questionable credibility is a natural liability that can do nothing to contribute to the cause of our witnesses,” Mendoza said in an interview.

“We don’t know if what she’s saying is the entire truth, sanitized truth or entire lie,” he added.

Napoles, who is still in the Ospital ng Makati following surgery to remove her uterus, still owes the state hospital P100,000 in unpaid bills.

The hospital’s medical director, Perry Ishamel Peralta, she she might be discharged, however, if she gives them a promissory note.

Peralta made his statement at the Makati regional trial court trying Napoles for a case of serious illegal detention filed by Luy.

Peralta said the unpaid hospital bills would not prevent Napoles from leaving since she can write and sign a promissory note, and said doctors had approved her discharge as early as May 5.

Her lawyers filed a motion asking the court to allow her stay longer at the hospital, keeping her out of her detention cell in a police camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Also on Thursday, Vice President Jejomar Binay said anyone guilty of misusing public funds, whether they are allies or not, should be punished.

He also agreed that the pork barrel scam has become muddled by recent revelations of several lists from Napoles and Luy.

In the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said it was unlikely that the scandal would taint the innocent “Let me point out that of 289 members, only 18 current, including from the opposition, are in the Lacson list. Only one or two of them occupy important posts,” he said. – With Christine F. Herrera, Joel E. Zurbano and Sara Susanne D. Fabunan

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Alcala loses Agri control; PNoy hands 75% budget, 4 key units to Pangilinan By Christine F. Herrera | May. 19, 2014 at 12:01am


ALCALA

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has clipped Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s powers, with 75 percent of the department’s P68.59 billion budget now lodged with the Office of the President under former senator Francis Pangilinan, Palace sources said Sunday.

With Alcala reduced to a mere titular head, lawmakers, farmers and critics have renewed calls for his resignation amid threats of reduced production as a result of the El Niño phenomenon.

Since his appointment by President Aquino in 2010, Alcala has been hounded by numerous issues, including rampant smuggling of agricultural products including rice, pork and poultry, his failure to deliver on the promise of rice self sufficiency, and allegations of his involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Alcala’s remaining 25 percent of his powers includes control over agencies such as the National Agribusiness Corp. or Nabcor, which was abolished in March by the President after it was linked to the pork barrel scandal.

Alcala also retains supervision over National Dairy Corp., a recipient of the bulk of the funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the legality of which has been challenged in court.

“Out of delicadeza... Alcala should start packing up and resign his post. If he refuses to resign, then the President should sack him,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate.

Zarate added that Alcala was now being slapped in the face for his incompetence.

Four strategic agencies of the Department of Agriculture were transferred to the Office of the President. The rest of the 36 smaller agencies remain under Alcala’s control.

“There are 40 agencies under the DA. But the four biggest and most strategic agencies that comprise 75 percent of the DA budget and powers were taken away from Alcala. Without these agencies, the DA secretary is reduced to a mere titular head. He has been stripped of his powers,” the Palace source, who requested anonymity, told the Manila Standard.

Aquino placed the National Food Authority, National Irrigation Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority, and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority under the supervision of Pangilinan, newly appointed presidential assistant on food security and agricultural modernization.

The transfer of the biggest agencies left the bulk of Alcala’s P68.59 billion budget under Pangilinan’s control.

This includes the NFA budget of P4.25 billion, NIA’s P1.06 billion, PCA’s P2.37 billion and FPA’s P54.81 million.

Pangilinan also now controls the department’s P10.79 billion budget for the construction of new irrigation systems.

PCA was taken from Alcala even though his home province of Quezon was the top producer of coconuts.

Pangilinan said he was tasked by the President to curb all forms of corruption in the four agencies to ensure food security for all Filipinos.

“The... orders are clear: to clean it up. So we will do what we can, as best we can to help in that respect. Food security can only be done when you secure your farmers and your fisherfolk. So the overall program is to address that, including corruption because the funds for our farmers are there but these are wasted and misused,” Pangilinan said shortly after taking his oath.

Alcala remained unperturbed by the calls of the leftist wing of Congress for him to resign and by the three plunder complaints filed against him by militant farmers.

In an interview over radio dzMM, Alcala said he was not even concerned about the pork scandal rocking his department now.

Alcala said his priority is the mitigation of the impact of the nine-month El Niño that would begin next month.

Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the independent minority bloc in the House, said lawmakers have not failed in reminding the President that Alcala had failed miserably at his job.

“We have been reminding the President that the Department of Agriculture’s national food security policies would not be able to stand the threats of climate change. We have been asking for reports on farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems installed, probe on rice importation overpricing and these fell on deaf ears,” Dela Cruz said.

He said keeping Alcala and adding another layer of bureaucracy through Pangilinan, also a member of the President’s Liberal Party, would result in “more of the same.”

“Why bother calling for [Alcala’s] resignation or ouster when the President himself keeps his confidence in his own incompetent official?” Dela Cruz said.

Zarate said the President was doing a disservice to the nation by desperately keeping an ally at the expense of the public.

“The Filipino people, especially the farmers and fisherfolk, have suffered more than enough due to Alcala’s incompetence. The President should take heed the public’s clamor that he should let go of his officials with dismal records. If Alcala is giving the President another set of statistics about his performance, all the President had to do is talk to the farmers and fishermen who bear the brunt directly of Alcala’s and his men’s inefficiency,” Zarate said.

Pangilinan had said he was not appointed because Alcala failed to do the task when the four agencies were still under the DA.

“I wouldn’t say he failed to clean up. The agricultural sector is so wide. He needs support and that’s why we are here,” he said.

However, when asked if Alcala will also be probed as part of Pangilinan’s housecleaning efforts, the former senator said: “The President did not mention who to include and who to exclude. So whoever should be included, will be included, whoever that may be.”

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said Pangilinan’s appointment was not in response to the issues raised against Alcala.

“Secretary Pangilinan’s appointment is an affirmative decision, and not in reaction to issues that have been raised by some quarters concerning Secretary Alcala, who continues to enjoy the President’s trust and confidence,” Coloma said.

He said the President’s decision to transfer the agencies was to provide impetus to the National Convergence Initiative under the Philippine Development Plan.

“The President wants the four agencies to devote intensified and focused efforts in attaining PDP goals. Secretary Alcala is expected to continue pursuing the full attainment of DA objectives with undiminished vigor,” Coloma added.

The NCI aims to rationalize land use policies and strengthen the system of land property rights; promote sustainable agriculture and preserve the land resource base; and enhance the investment and opportunity climate for agribusiness.

Pangilinan said the orders given him by the President include addressing the problem of spiraling prices of palay as well as fine-tuning the policy on rice importation; finding solutions to the P170 billion debt of the National Food Authority; ensuring that the coco levy funds redound to benefit of farmers; and ensuring that NIA’s P58 billion budget does not go to waste.

Aquino, in his last State of the Nation Address, publicly criticized the NIA.

“The make-do culture at the NIA has also tested our patience. Instead of laying out plans for new irrigation systems, they are merely content with the continued rehabilitation of existing irrigation. For them, shoddy repairs are enough to say they have already done a good job,” the President said.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

A climate change resilient Philippines (By WWF International president Yolanda Kakabadse)  May 19, 2014 (updated) Yolanda Kakabadse, Manila Bulletin, WEF, World Economic Forum, WWF


Yolanda Kakabadse, WWF International President.


What is the true cost of climate change? Ask Filipinos. They know.

They know because one storm claimed more than 6,000 lives and inflicted $14 billion in economic damage. They know because they have experienced loss – and loss is a powerful teacher.

When it comes to climate change, the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country in the world, according to a study released by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works. It is a tropical archipelago besieged by no less than 20 storms a year.

WWF was in Tacloban, the city that was hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan, two months before the storm hit. The city’s leaders predicted the coming of a mega-storm within a decade. They were right, only it came sooner than expected.

Climate disasters are a reality that millions of Asians have had to face early. How much carbon Filipinos emit is beside the point: stronger and more frequent storms will assail their homes regardless. So how should they prepare for a climate-defined future?

SECURE LIFELINES
Like all crises, basics come first. These include enhancing food security, water and flood management, maintaining a balanced energy mixture, all-weather access and transport, health, human capital, sustainable land use, plus climate-smart urban development. Development must be evaluated through a bifocal climate lens: mitigation looks at the reduction of carbon, while adaptation considers the management of risk.

For the past four years, WWF has been developing a study to prepare 12 – soon to be 16 – of the largest Philippines cities to adapt to climate change. We found that the effects of climate change do not take place uniformly. They are non-linear and site-specific. A city built along misty mountains, such as Baguio, will face different challenges than those of coastal enclaves like Davao. To be effective, planning and responses should be area-specific. Even if your city is spared from droughts or floods, refugees from hard-hit areas will stream in. Will you refuse them entry?

Cities need to act in alliance, beyond their boundaries.

Climate-proofing vital lifelines like roads, airports, seaports and communication hubs will be a unique sales proposition for both the private and public sector. The North Luzon Expressway’s Candaba Viaduct, for example, links Metro Manila with landlocked northern provinces even in the monsoon, allowing the uninterrupted entry and exit of supplies. In contrast is Tacloban airport, which sits by the sea. When Haiyan hit, five-meter-high waves crippled air-transportation facilities, cutting off the city from the air. When roads are impassable – when airports, seaports and communication lines shut down – business stops. Reducing downtime maximizes the ability to bounce back from disasters, ensuring stable profit.

MANAGING FOOTPRINTS
The human footprint dramatically aggravates vulnerability. Asia Pacific’s footprint is 77% beyond the region’s limits. In 2012, the Philippine Climate Change Commission revealed that Filipinos consumed 2.02 times the amount permitted by available resources and their country’s carbon-absorption capacity. Mitigation is important, even if many countries that contribute the least to global carbon emissions are the most vulnerable, having fewer resources to cope with disasters. Large emitters must take the lead, but all countries must contribute.

As developing countries progress, their greenhouse gas emissions rise. Though your country currently contributes less than 0.35% of global emissions, its share will spike due to economic and population growth. You have one of the most expensive power rates in Asia. Prioritizing your indigenous renewable-energy options, veering away from fossil fuels and optimizing energy use are the best paths to a low-cost, low-carbon future.

WWF is currently spearheading a global campaign called Seize Your Power. The movement calls on financial institutions, private investors, pension and sovereign wealth funds, plus governments to significantly increase investments in renewable energy and divest itself from fossil fuels. While it is important for governments to provide a stable policy framework, the role of the business community in our transition to a low-carbon future cannot be overemphasized. This will save the Philippines billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

The Philippine Department of Energy already pledged to triple the nation’s renewable-energy capacity from 5,400 to more than 15,000 megawatts – a switch requiring investments of $12.4 billion over the next 16 years. The climate challenge covers the way we grow our crops and manage our watersheds. No country can live without food and water. A growing nation must learn to produce more, with less.

The lessons of Typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng and Haiyan should be heeded. By developing correctly and rebuilding right, you honour the memory of those you have lost.

Lastly, take pride – for in the face of climate change, the Filipino people remain unbowed. Already, leaders from the private and public sectors are blazing brave new trails to address today’s climate challenges. You must seize opportunities. There is no future but what you make of the present
 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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